Housing crisis

The housing crisis is forcing pet owners and foster families to make heartbreaking decisions

Every time Tanya Wooley brings a new cat or dog into her home, they become part of the family.

For the past five years, she has provided temporary foster care in central Queensland to help people keep their animals in times of housing difficulties or stress.

“You always start to think that [the] pet will forget his owner or i will feel so sad when he leaves because he is like my pet now,” she said.

Unfortunately, these moments of joy are now rare.

Matilda the cat’s owner has decided to give up her pet after 18 months of trying to find a new home.(ABC Capricorn: Michelle Gately)

Ms Wooley was forced to suspend her charity’s foster care services due to increased expectations for accommodation.

Waiting lists for community housing in the area have exploded beyond 12 weeks and rental vacancy rates are at record highs.

While Queensland’s tenancy reforms removed the automatic landlord denial of pets, the law does not come into effect until October.

Until then, owners unable to find suitable housing have no choice but to rehouse their pets.

“We feel like we let them down”

Ms Wooley, from Rockhampton, started People 4 Pets after struggling to find temporary accommodation with her pets when her house flooded.

His The aim was to help people facing temporary crises such as natural disasters, fleeing abusive relationships or sleeping rough by offering them 12-week foster care placements.

A timeline was based on predicted waiting times for social housing when the charity started in 2017.

It “worked very well” until the COVID pandemic, when wait times for accommodation rose to unachievable levels.

Ms Wooley has been caring for two cats, Rusty and Matilda, for 18 months as their owner moves between caravan parks trying to find forever homes.

“It’s a burden on us as caregivers, knowing that at the end of your care period that animal doesn’t go home to its owner…it feels like it’s been let down. “

Ms Wooley said sometimes people had ‘scorned’ landlords for not planning better, but in most cases the circumstances were beyond their control due to job loss or increased cost of life.

“We have never met more beloved animals than we have met in this rescue [charity]“said Ms Wooley.

“Obviously if there’s more housing available, all of these animals could go home.

“But at the moment, 80% of the animals in our temporary care will have to be adopted because the owners are not being given suitable housing within a reasonable time.”

Pet requests considered

Ms Wooley, who also owns two rental homes, said she prioritizes tenants with pets.

“We’ve never had a problem, and probably more with kids than with pets,” she said.

While not all owners will appreciate the changes from October, owners in Queensland will not be able to automatically reject pet owner requests.

Residential Tenancies Authority customer experience manager Sam Galer said the change would end “no pets” statements in advertisements and allow tenants to negotiate with landlords.

A dark-haired, bespectacled man wearing a blue shirt smiles at the camera.
Sam Galer says “no pets” statements will be a thing of the past.(Provided: Residential Tenancies Authority)

Renters must still request permission to keep a pet, but the request will be considered approved if there is no response within 14 days.

Requests can also only be denied on “identified reasonable grounds”, but those details have yet to be released.

Mr Galer said tenants would be responsible for any damage caused to the property by their pet, but a separate “pet bond” could not be claimed.

“Saying ‘you can have a pet, but I’ll raise the rent or charge a pet deposit’…is not allowed under this legislation,” he said.

In a statement, the Department for Communities, Housing and the Digital Economy said Queensland’s $2.9 billion housing and homelessness action plan included $1 billion to boost the housing supply and an increase in housing and homelessness support.

“Queensland’s Housing Investment Growth Initiative is a key part of the action plan and will see 7,400 new social housing units start by June 30, 2025,” the department said.